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October 24, 2013 Issue

Waterpark developer looks at Wadley
Speir’s Turnout Festival this weekend
Glascock schools consider charter system

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Waterpark developer looks at Wadley

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Lurton Lipscomb Jr. has talked with Wadley City Council, Wadley Mayor Herman Baker and members of the development authorities that represent the city and Jefferson County. His plan is to buy 40 acres in Wadley for $200,000 and build a water park.

The Development Authority of Jefferson County owns 30 of those acres with the other 10 acres belonging to the city.

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His offer, at $5,000 an acre, would bring much needed revenue to a city already struggling in the current economy. Recently, the council voted to furlough city workers in order to save money.

The project, as one council member said, sounds too good to be true – a $65 million project with an estimated 225 permanent jobs.

Further, Lipscomb has stated he is not asking for industrial bonds, tax abatement or any money from the city.

In an open meeting Monday, Oct. 14, Tom Jordan, director of the county’s development authority, said the land that interests Lipscomb is at Bobby Gut Creek on Highway 78.

“He does not want industrial bonds,” Jordan said.

“He told me very quickly he did not want any tax incentives or industrial bonds,” said John Murphy, Wadley’s city attorney.

“We’ve been talking with the city for about a month now,” Lipscomb said during an open meeting Friday, Oct. 18.

“What we would like to use the land for is to develop a water park,” he said, adding the 10 acres owned by the city would be used for parking. That land is located across the road from the 30 acres. Lipscomb said they would bridge the two areas.

Not all of the 225 jobs would be fulltime, but a lot would, he said.

“There’s a wide variety of jobs. At least 25 to 30 would be senior management jobs,” Lipscomb said. “Overall, we think it’s not only a good project for us, but for the city. We like the location.”

Lipscomb also said he would not need water from the city.

“I think we’re going to have to do the water ourselves,” he said.

“There are a lot of different options. We have to do a study. In between now and closing, we’re going to have to have a study,” Lipscomb said. “There are a couple of water parks in the middle of the desert in Nevada. They pipe their water in.”

Councilman Izell Mack said he was interested in anything that would provide jobs to the people in Wadley.

“I do know that we need jobs here,” he said. “Whatever we have to do, we should do. We’re not spending any of our own money.

“You build a good bridge, people want to cross it.”

Mack also said he would like to see a barrier wall around the park to protect area residents from any noise generated by the park and its visitors.

“If we could make it work, it would benefit the city,” said Edie Pundt, a former Wadley council member who sits on the county’s development authority.

The council voted to have their city attorney, John Murphy, draft a resolution for the sale of the property.

Online records with the county’s tax assessor’s office show the properties to be valued significantly less than the amount Lipscomb offered.

The property owned by the county’s development authority, actually 28.63 acres, is valued at $37,006. The property owned by the city, actually 22 acres, is valued at $22,801. This averages to a value of about $1,181.26 an acre. Additionally, both areas are in a designated 500 year flood plain.

Lipscomb said he realizes the value of the land is considerably lower than what he offered.

“The minute we try and make a marketable scenario and try to go lower, someone’s going to complain. We’re going to give the city top dollar for the land,” he said.

Several years ago, Lipscomb presented a different proposal to the city. He had requested $10 million in industrial revenue bonds to assist Providence Machine Inc. to construct facilities for five 15,250 square-foot manufacturing buildings and a 12,000 square-foot administrative building. The CEO of that company was Lipscomb.

He said the problem with that project was delays after delays.

“A past proposal was delayed,” he said.

“It involved industrial revenue bonds. This was before the city had its own industrial development authority. And there were actually some people from outside of Wadley who didn’t want the city to have its own development authority, which is another reason it slowed down and stalled.

“Fortunately, the city on a slower tempo than what we needed, went ahead and got their own development authority. My understanding is that it was a couple of years later or so.”

This time around, he said, no bonds will be involved.

“Our own money and everything financed privately.”

The difference this time is politics are not involved, Lipscomb said.

The money involved will not be the city’s.

“The reality of it is, before it dealt with politics. This time we’re not dealing with politics. We’re dealing with business,” he said.

Lipscomb said there are similarities between this project and several parks they’ve seen throughout the country.

“But none that would have all the components,” he said, adding that until the project is complete and operational he would not be comfortable naming a park that is similar.

He also plans an aggressive advertising campaign and not just statewide.

“There are some people who travel to water parks and they’ll travel to amusement parks just to get a new experience in those areas,” he said.

A quick check of Lipscomb online provides numerous comments from dissatisfied customers; but, he said that is par for the course.

“There are a lot of people who have been trashed on the internet,” he said. “We’re in the lending business; and, we’re in the hard lending business. We deal with issues where the client has had problems in the past. Some of them are workable clients; and, some of them aren’t.

“Some of the ones that aren’t decide in this age to taint you and slander you. The internet’s a way to do that without accountability. There’s no basis in fact and we don’t let it bother us. We’re going to keep doing our thing. As far as the project is concerned, it’s viable. We’re not asking the city to give us or loan us a dime,” he said.

Once the sale of the land closes, Lipscomb said the water park should be operational within 14 months.




Speir’s Turnout Festival this weekend

By Megan Johnson
Apprentice

The Speir’s Turnout Festival is back in Bartow.

The Festival will be held Saturday, Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in downtown Bartow.

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“We are very excited about this festival,” said Diane Sharpe, vice president of the Bartow Community Club.

Sharpe said there will be different vendors to check out at the festival.

“Some of the vendors will have leather belts, metal yard art, pocket knives, quilts, hand painted Christmas cards and Confederate related items such as flags and tags,” she said.

She and Nan Gunn will have a variety of original art work. Christa McKinney will have custom children’s clothes, hair bows, doll clothes and embroidered items and Dwayne Morris will have pocket knives.

“And that’s just to name a few,” Sharpe said.

“Along with the arts and crafts vendors, we will also have food vendors. The vendors will consist of Tracy Walden, barbecue and ribs; Doris Parker, fish, shrimp and baked pecans; Shannon Washington, fish fry and candy apples; Powell’s Chapel will offer homemade apple and peach tarts, cotton candy and funnel cakes; and Tiwatha Gilmore, hamburgers and sausage dogs.

“Children and adults will enjoy the festival,” Sharpe said.

She said the adults can go check out the vendors while the children take train rides and play on the inflatable moon walk.

“Plus there will be a parade, which will feature fire trucks, marching bands and many other attractions that kids will enjoy,” she said.

“We are excited to announce some awesome talent that will be performing at this year’s festival. Our headliner will be The Front Porch Band featuring John Mole and also Luther Gravitt. They will play ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s music plus ballads. They’ll perform at 11 a.m. Prior to them we’ll have Kippy Crego performing rock and roll standards and another well-known performer, David Fowler, will entertain us with his special talent at 1 p.m.,” Sharpe said.

“In addition, our entertainment will include Stephanie’s Dance Explosion and Melanie Jones’ Carver Dancers.

“We are anticipating a big turnout this year. We hope to see you at the festival,” she said.




Glascock schools consider charter system

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The Glascock County Board of Education is considering going from a QBE standard to a Charter System.

The county’s BOE superintendent, Jim Holton, stressed this is not the same thing as a charter school.

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QBE, or Quality Basic Education, uses a formula that is the basis for state funding to local schools. Holton said the Charter System is just a different way of determining how state funding will be provided to each school system in Georgia.

Several years ago, the state’s General Assembly signed a bill requiring every school district in Georgia to choose between two new modes of operation by June 2015 or continue under the current system, more commonly referred to as Status Quo.

“The Status Quo is QBE, plus waivers that we as well as most Georgia systems have been getting ready since the economy and state funding cuts have hit us,” Holton said, adding such waivers would not be available after June 2015.

“(The Charter System) is going to be the new operating system, where previously we had been funded by QBE,” he said.

A handout from the superintendent’s office states the Charter System offers greater flexibility in exchange for more community and parental involvement as well as higher academic achievement.

Further, this system gives teachers, administrators, the school board, parents and community members a chance to have greater input and flexibility in determining the unique needs of students within the local school district, the handout states.

Holton said a community meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m. at the board office, 738 Railroad Ave., Gibson.

During this meeting, officials with the school board and the state’s department of education will provide information about the Charter System. The public will have an opportunity to make comments.

Two public hearings have been set for Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the BOE office in Gibson. The first is at 11 a.m. The second is at 6 p.m.

Holton said he would greatly appreciate input from everyone concerned.







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